Honors Program


Date of this Version

Spring 3-2-2022

Document Type



Cheek, Zachary Wahab. 2022. The Impact of Afghan Opium Cultivation on the American Opioid Epidemic Undergraduate Honors thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Copyright Zachary Wahab Cheek 2022.


I argue here that increases in Afghan opium cultivation, the most prolific in the world, have depressed American prescription opioid and heroin prices, thereby increasing abuse risk in U.S. addict populations and increasing death rates. Utilizing a two-stage regression model with a sparse dataset from several national and international sources, I find evidence that a one percent increase in Afghan opium production is associated with a 0.122 percent increase in prescription opioid overdose deaths, and a 0.367 percent increase in heroin overdose deaths. Assessing the 2001-2002 Taliban opium ban with an identification strategy, I find that in this timeframe prescription opioids were 23.8% more expensive. Implications are discussed, and counterfactuals considered.